“When I started school I was behind the others. Without the courses at Sakena Yacoobi’s Center, I would never have caught up.“
Seven-year-old Muhammed works from four in the morning until six in the evening at the bakery’s hot oven. Sometimes he gets burns, and he is hit. When he accidentally burns a whole tray of loaves, he runs away and never comes back...
When Muhammad is seven, he sells chewing gum and telephone cards at the market. But he hardly earns any money. One evening, his father brings a stranger home.
“This is Hamid, the baker. You’re going to be his assistant. It’s a good job,” says Muhammed’s father.
The baker looks kindly at Muhammed and says:
“There are lots of boys who want to work for me, so you should be glad you’re getting the chance to learn the trade. You start at four tomorrow morning.”
Runs away from home
Days become weeks and months full of hard toil, abuse and dangerous work around the hot ovens. On his lunch break, Muhammed slips out of the bakery and sits alone under a tree, nibbling his bread.
There is a school next door, and Muhammed looks enviously at the boys on their way home from morning lessons. They laugh and swing their schoolbags.
“I want to go to school too,” thinks Muhammed.
After seven months, Muhammed has had enough. One morning he accidentally burns a whole tray of loaves, and is so afraid of the baker’s punishment that he runs away and heads home. In the evening he tells his father Atiq about how awful things are at the bakery, how he is hit, and how easy it is to get burnt. He weeps and says he wants to go to school, learn to read and write, and not work these long days. At first his father is furious, but after a while he calms down.
“You are disobedient. But you are also brave. You can go to school on one condition – that you do your homework every single day,” says his father, Atiq.
“Thank you father, may Allah be with you,” says Muhammed.
Idol: Singer Zahir Shah, father Atiq
Interests: Taekwondo, football, TV
Wants to be: A soldier or a martial arts master
Favourite food: Spaghetti
Hates: Child labour
Text: Jesper Huor
Photos: Makan E-Rahmati